File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0103, message 86

Date: Tue, 20 Mar 2001 23:18:11 +0000
Subject: Re: I'd rather be a Cyborg than a Goddess


Interesting comments as always.  I think however that the definitions that
are produced remain fundamentally within an understanding of labor based
within modern times,  and as such does not seem to accept the shift into the
post-modern economy which is the paradigm we currently exist in. This
paradigm, which is commonly understood as globalisation, does indeed mark
the shift on a global scale from industrialisation to the provision of
services and information manipulation (within which industrial production
exists)  as the core of current economic production. Industrial production
has not disappeared any more than agriculture has disappeared rather its has
been transformed into an essential part of the post-modern globalised
economies, a transformed informationalised industrial sector. (In the shift
from agriculture to industrial culture remember that agriculture became
industrialised, now it is becoming information…see the foot and mouth crisis
as an example)

I am conscious of the irony invoked by placing post-modernity in such a
meta-narrative position, but suspect that it is inevitable, given its
convenience in naming what has come after the economic break. Post-modernism
is the economic process that follows when mechanical, industrial and
informational technologies have invested the entire world, when modernity,
the modernisation process is complete and world encompassing.  The
subsumption of the non-capitalist world is complete, the world environment
and some outside of it has been absorbed by capital – (in its entirety if
you consider science fiction as a representation of the social imaginary…)
Post-modern capitalism relies on the re-absorption of the terrain of
capitalism itself. There are no external borders… (Jameson) The process of
post-modernisn (as economics) is that of the informatisation of all

How does this place the interesting metaphors then? In post-modern terms
they are I suggest all one just at differing socio-economic points.  I do
not disagree at all with the situating of the economic subjects (Cyborg,
industrial and craft) you describe,  except to point out that increasingly
all societies are containers of the stereotypes invoked.  (How many millions
of USA subjects live in what was once called 3rd World conditions?). All
three proposed forms of worker are engaged in the process referred to
previously : “… Mobility and mass worker nomadism express a refusal and a
search for liberation: resistance against the conditions of exploitation”.
The discussion of the cyborg is especially interesting because the
additional threads (mobiles, pagers, laptops, I would add private medicine,
insurance, pensions and company cars etc…) you mention confirm the accuracy
of Marx’s proposition that the value of necessary labor has risen
enormously, and as a result  surplus labor time falls. For the capitalist
employer the cost of labor is an economic commodity like electricity, phones
and the internet, but this is incorrect and it is determined as a result of
social struggle, a social struggle which endlessly mutates, ‘nomadism’ is a
new and popular form I suggest… (The use of the society of control is
accurate I think but needs to be understood through the forms of resistance
that it has engendered…)

The mass refusal of the disciplinary forms associated with industrial
production is in itself interesting – the partial success of the social
struggles – evidenced by the raised costs of reproduction and the changes
that resulted in the forms of labor itself.  In the first world the
liberties won by the industrial worker, included most interestingly, the
refusal of the disciplinary society which was founded in the social factory
and that resulted in a reevaluation of the worth of the productive
activities. Discipline did not succeed in containing the desires of people.
Even with the establishing of mass unemployment, the mass replacing of
people by robots, information systems and so on, industrial disciplinary
society was not re-established. The mass refusal of the disciplinary society
was not only a moment of negation but also an invention of new values.
Nomadism is a response to this– the ever-growing number of industrial
economic migrants is representative of this change.

With regard to craftworkers I lean towards ‘last years industrial technology
is this years craftwork…’ I do not deny the accuracy of the images invoked
but the productive work described is part of capital’s ongoing absorption of
the terrain of capitalism itself. This is not a separate terrain from
globalisation, from the information society, it is exquisitely post-modern.
The people are treated precisely the same as everyone else – that is to say
as badly as they can be, the steady migration of people from there to here
is to be understood as part of the same process of rejection and struggle.

Lyotard’s refusal of meta-narratives was a rejection of the enlightment,
narratives of modernity and not as is commonly read a rejection of
meta-narratives as such… Indeed much of his writing can be read as an
attempt to reconstitute one or more narratives as ‘meta…’ (though the
liberal-capitalist triumphalism of the ‘…fable’ is a bit much really).
Post-modernity as used here is of course a meta-narrative itself.

Marxism will not go away because it remains the single most powerful
critique of capitalism, and thus of our post-modern societies, that exists.
It can of course be understood as being theoretically incorrect, but so is
Newtonian Physics. In many ways it is the great said and unsaid of much
contemporary theory.

I strongly recommend “Empire” (Hardt and Negri) no praise is to high for
this text, and Andre Gorz’s little utilised work “critique of economic
reason”. (Which are the texts I’m mis-reading here, initially unconsciously
but it appeared out of my imaginary quite suddenly)

This is endlessly growing – better stop



Mary Murphy&Salstrand wrote:

> Steve
> Thanks for your provocative comments.  In the history of labor that
> still remains to be written, the libidinous relationship of workers with
> technology would certainly merit a number of chapters.  Simplifying to
> the extreme, one might distinguish the three distinct periods of labor
> as follows:
> 1. Craft Workers
> 2. Industrial Workers
> 3. Cyborgs
> With regard to the mobility of the work force, its increased
> deterritorialization, one might also argue that today the global economy
> does not reduce itself to the cyborg alone, but on the contrary,
> simultaneously contains all three, with varying rates of speed and
> movement.
> The Cyborgs are more conventionally described as Knowledge Workers.
> They display mobility in a number of contexts.  Through the agency of
> cyberspace, their worlds become hyperdimensional, boundless and fluid.
> The Cyborgs travel from city to city, realizing a global lifestyle.  At
> the same time, however, their work day never ends, they live as vassals
> of a deterritorialized corporate feudal estate, with pagers, cell phones
> and modems on their home/portable computers.  They function literally in
> terms of Deleuze's society of control.  Others, acting as consultants,
> belong to vast deterritorialized corporate armies that resemble
> Deleuze's and Guttarri's concept of the war machine.
> The traditional industrial workers have not vanished, however. They have
> simply become invisibles, the underground moles that burrow under the
> information economy, providing the material base that allows it to
> function in the banal "real" world.  Today, these workers are also
> identified as service workers in a shadow economy - janitors, cafeteria
> workers, landscapers, maintenance crews and microchip assemblers.  They
> tend to become mobile in new ways, as nomadic temps in a work force with
> extremely limited benefits and low pay.
> The craft workers are often third worlders producing trash and trinkets
> for highly mobile global consumers.  Otherwise, these workers
> recapitulate the nineteenth century as they deterritorialize rain
> forests, extended families and rural agrarian structures.  They form the
> sweatshops, child labor, and brutal savage conditions that must be met
> because, we are told, they would otherwise remain poor and
> precapitalist. They must be treated poorly by us in order for them to
> overcome their poverty.  Otherwise, we are simply being elitist.
> It is the total and the disparate movement of these heterogeneous
> workers that define postmodern politics in their scattered lines of
> flight.
> Certainly, this movement is global in the same way the multinationals
> are global.  But even more than this, these developments go beyond
> globalism to the extent the new information economy that makes this very
> globalism possible is a self-organizing complex system which no single
> group or individual can totally understand or regulate.  This is what
> gives expression to Lyotard's famous incredulity towards metanarratives
> as defining the postmodern.
> The struggles these Cyborgs and other workers must wage in this brave
> new complex structure amounts to a renewal of the social contract.  The
> new terms do not concern property as much as they do access to
> information and this in turn raises the question whether or not this
> access will be equalitarian and democratic or managed by multinational
> elites who will then function as the gatekeepers, operating the toll
> booths of the information highway.
> Here is where postmodern Marxism becomes possible, as Cyborgs and other
> workers complexify to create not merely revolution, but a singularity
> that goes beyond these attempts to intervene and regulate the
> spontaneous order of information.  The stakes are over whether or not to
> continue a "winner take all" unstable economy or drift  towards
> cooperative coevolutionary decentralized structures. Ones that support
> more ephemeral and sustainable pleasures, as the job economy moves from
> work to play and our Calvin ghosts take on ecstatic flesh to arise in a
> profane resurrection of joy, a virtual pagan Easter where information
> breeds like bunnies.


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